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Machshavot HaRav:

Reflections from Rabbi Waxman


Their Sins; Our Sins


Chafing under Roman rule, which included the Romans selecting the High Priest, the Jews in Jerusalem finally revolted in 66, after the last procurator, Florus, stole vast quantities of silver from the Temple. That was the final straw. A couple of quick victories over Roman troops, and the result was the doomed Great Revolt.


But that was not the rabbinic perspective. They looked inward for a cause of Judea’s downfall and offered the following story (Gittin 56):


One of the wealthy men of Jerusalem was having a party and sent his servant to invite someone by the name of Kamtzah. Alas, the servant, in error, extended the invitation to Bar Kamtzah, who was the host’s foe. Bar Kamtzah went to the party, believing that perhaps this was an act of reconciliation. When he arrived there the party, the host was furious and ordered him to leave. Bar Kamtzah responded: “Since I am already here, let me stay, and I will pay you for whatever I eat and drink.” The host declined the offer. Bar Kamtzah offered to pay for half of the party. Again, the host refused. Finally, he offered to pay for the whole party and not only did the host reject the offer but bodily ejected him. Bar Kamtzah was livid and said: “Since the Rabbis were sitting there and didn’t stop him this shows that they agreed with him. I will go and inform against them to the government.” And Bar Kamtzah proceeded to bring the wrath of the Romans down upon the Jews.


For the Sages of the Talmud, this was the paradigm of Sin’at Chinam, of causeless hatred, or in contemporary terms, incivility.


And while it is true that the causes for the Great Revolt and its failure are more complex than hinted at in the story, the rabbinic concern about the negative consequences of incivility are timeless.


Members of the current administration have been treated like pariahs; ejected from restaurants. Even Alan Dershowitz, who has generally espoused liberal causes, has been ostracized for his defense of the President’s civil liberties. On the other side one witnesses name calling and denigration of political foes. Civility is going out the door. We are in danger of becoming a bifurcated nation because politics has become ever more caustic.


It is true that important institutions and policies are at issue. And yet, there needs to be a way of respectfully disagreeing without being nasty.


With the approach this weekend of Tisha B’av, the 9th of Av (the 9th is Saturday, but the fast is observed on Sunday) marking the destruction of both Temples, we would do well to reflect on this rabbinic tale that should speak to all of us whatever our religious and political views are.


Shabbat shalom.






Chadashot MeYisrael: News From Israel


Fast Charger for Electric Vehicles


Even as Tesla cranks up production of its electric cars, there remains an elephant in the room of all electric cars, namely that it takes a long time to charge a car. For most of us, if we spend 5 minutes in a gas station refilling, we think that is a long time: we blame it on slow pump. By contrast, even the best of fast-charging stations requires 8 times as long, some 40 minutes, to recharge the battery. For most car owners, their autos are charged overnight.


Now comes an Israeli company called Chakratec which combines old and modern technologies to cut the time of recharging down to a much more manageable 10 minutes. Using fly wheels, which are designed to store energy, and suspending them in mid-air with magnetic levitation, the end result is astonishing. According to CEO Ilan Ben-David, “When you put electricity in, the flywheel starts to rotate. Since the flywheel is suspended by magnets in a vacuum chamber, there’s almost no friction. So the flywheel keeps spinning at the same speed.” When a car is ready to plug in, the energy from the flywheel is converted back to electricity.


The CEO further noted that unlike lithium-ion batteries, which are not environmentally friendly, degrade relatively quickly, and need replacing after a few months, the Chakratec flywheel charging station can operate for up to 20 years before it needs replacing.


The company has raised a total of 7.6 million dollars since it was founded in 2013, more than half of which it raised in May. Last year, the company won the energy storage capacity award at the EMove360 Europe trade fair held in Munich and most recently it won the 2018 Outstanding Venture award at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Industry Growth Forum competition held in Colorado.


The company has begun deployment of its system in an unnamed location at a European airport which rents out EV’s and expects to have 5 customers by year’s. Moreover, the French charging solution provide DBT-CEV plans on using this technology to triple the power available from the grid.


The company’s name is a play on “chakra”, which many associated with the healing community and refers to energy centers in the body. But, as Ben-David explained, “the original [meaning] is the Sanskrit for rotating wheel.”






Payrush LaParshahah:

 A Comment on the Weekly Torah Portion


With this week’s portion of D’varim (Deuteronomy 2:2-30) we begin the reading of the final book of the Torah this Saturday, July 21st.


2:8 We then moved on, away from our kin, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir, away from the road of the Arabah, away from Elath and Ezion-geber; and we marched on in the direction of the wilderness of Moab. (9) And YHWH said to me: Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them to war. For I will not give you any of their land as a possession; I have assigned Ar as a possession to the descendants of Lot--. (10) It was formerly inhabited by the Emim, a people great and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. (11) Like the Anakites, they are counted as Rephaim; but the Moabites call them Emim. (12) Similarly, Seir was formerly inhabited by the Horites; but the descendants of Esau dispossessed them, wiping them out and settling in their place, just as Israel did in the land they were to possess, which YHWH had given to them (13) Up now! Cross the wadi Zered! So, we crossed the wadi Zered.


9-13 These comments about Moab closely parallel the previous section about Edom, with the addition of a digression regarding the occupation history of the lands of Moab and Edom. Both territories were formerly inhabited by strong peoples who were dispossessed as part of God’s plan of conquest and land distribution. The territory of Moab carried the name given by Lot’s eldest daughter her son born of the incestuous relations with the father (see Genesis 19:30-38). This myth of origin reveals the Israelites’ complicated attitude toward the Moabites: while they are kin, they are also the product of a deeply transgressive sexual union. The book of Ruth, about a Moabite woman who becomes the wife of a Judahite man and great-grandmother of King David, illustrates another facet of the complicated attitude. [One more passage clouding the waters is Deuteronomy 23: 4-5: “No Ammonite {descendant of Lot’s other daughter} or Moabite shall be admitted into the congregation of the Lord; none of their descendants even in the tenth generation, shall ever be admitted into the congregation of the Lord, (5) because they did not meet you with feed and water on your journey after you left Egypt, and because they hired Balaam son of Beor, from Pethor of Aram-Nahararim, to curse you--.] (Elsie R. Stern, “D’varim: At the Threshold of Canaan,” in Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss, eds., The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. Professor Stern received her B.A. from Yale and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Bible from the University of Chicago. She was an assistant professor in the Department of Theology at Fordham University, where she taught Bible and Jewish studies, and she served as the assistant director for public programs at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. About a decade ago, she joined the faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, beginning as an Assistant Professor of Bible, and moved up the academic ladder in 2012 when she was designated as Associate Professor. Not long ago she was appointed Vice President for Academic Affairs, while maintaining her position on the faculty. She is the author of From Rebuke to Consolation: Exegesis and theology in the Liturgical Anthology of the Ninth of Av Season, published in 2004. In addition to her contribution to this commentary, she was a contributor to The Jewish Study Bible. Most recently, she was one of the editors of The Dictionary of the Bible and Ancient Media, published last year in 2017.)


Sat, July 21 2018 9 Av 5778